Benefits for health


Funded by Trust for London, the project aimed to:

  • build connections between people working in homelessness, health and welfare
  • improve people’s experiences of accessing health and welfare services when facing homelessness in London
  • ensure people get the most out of using health and welfare services.


The Benefits for Health research shows the complicated relationship between health and welfare benefits for people who are homeless – making it difficult for people to move out of homelessness.

The study, conducted by Groundswell between 2019-2020, was led by researchers with experience of homelessness using a peer research methodology. The research engaged 242 people who are currently experiencing homelessness in London. Their stories were collected using focus groups, case studies and one-to-one survey-based interviews.

Mo’s story

Mo has been homeless for more than two years. During this time he has been rough sleeping, squatting, living in refuges and bed and breakfasts.

When we met him, he was living in someone else’s council house. He told us that not long after he became homeless, he was sanctioned for 26 weeks after a serious operation and a stay in hospital.

There had been a mix up between the Jobcentre and GP, and the Jobcentre was not informed about his situation. He was not well enough to go to the Jobcentre after the operation to sort out the problem.

He told us that this situation with his benefits had a huge affect on his mental health.

Key findings

  • Poor health and issues with benefits are causes of homelessness. They are continued challenges for people experiencing homelessness.
  • Challenges in navigating the benefits system were common. Often ill-health or disability was a cause or contributing factor that further embedded these issues.
  • Welfare challenges had a significant impact on people’s health and wellbeing.
  • Despite high needs, challenges in accessing healthcare were common. They were often exacerbated by challenges with benefits.
  • The benefits and health systems could be working in a more integrated way for people who are homeless.


Leaflet and poster: Benefitting from benefits

For people experiencing homelessness and support staff.

Created to help people make the most from benefits and support to improve their health and wellbeing, and ultimately move out of homelessness.

The guide is designed to be printed in A3 and folded into an A6 (passport) pocket sized booklet.

  • Side 1: This is an A3 poster with information from the research and entitlements of claimants which can be displayed on walls of communal areas in hostels, homelessness centres, hostels, charities etc.
  • Side 2: This side can be folded into an A6 (passport sized) document which questions and space for claimants to reflect and prepare for meetings with the Jobcentre.

Claimants can use the guide themselves or with support from staff in services. It can either:

  • be filled in and used as a prompt for people experiencing homelessness to think about the benefits they receive and how their situation might affect their ability engage with the benefits system 
  • be used as a tool for self-advocacy/advocacy during DWP meetings by people who are homelessness themselves or those who support them.

The report and executive summary

Front cover of Benefits for Health full research report
Front cover of Benefits for Health Exectuive Summary


Listen to a summary of the findings, real stories and experiences read by the people who led the research.

Literature, policy and learning

For context, this document outlines:

  • the current homelessness picture
  • the relationship between homelessness and poor health
  • existing literature on homelessness and the welfare system.

The research process and our learning

Find out more about our research process.